CAJETAN MMUTA reports that the supremacy battle between a former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki, influence of moneybags and godfathers, federal might and eggheads of the Peoples Democratic Party (APC) will shape the outcome of tomorrow’s governorship election in Edo State
All appears set for the race for the number one seat at the Dennis Osadebay Avenue Government House in the ancient capital City Benin, Edo State. History, no doubt, would be made tomorrow, when the electorate file out to elect the next governor of the state.
The contest is special, coming at a time the world and indeed the country is battling the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed several lives across the globe and the country. It holds, therefore, that extra caution is expected from the relevant stakeholders – the electoral body (Independent National Electoral Commission – INEC), security agencies, leaders and members of different parties, voters, the media and election monitoring groups.
In the last two months, there has been glaring evidence of fear due to drumbeats of war and violent attacks during the ward to ward and local government campaigns by the parties, especially, among members of the two major political parties – the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Interestingly, the security agencies and INEC seem awake to their constitutional roles with the deployment of their seeming best hands to ensure a hitch-free election.
While the cloudy atmosphere of uncertainty has died down as cacophony of echoes from campaign drums beats, songs and sounds by party support groups momentarily cease with parties’ conclusion of campaign in strict adherence to set guidelines as spelt out by the Electoral Act, analysts are of the view that this year’s election campaign remains the most ferocious and expensive.
This is because of the political terrain and familiar actors out to undue each other. More worrying is the dangerous power play that had characterized the terrain before and during the primaries of the APC and PDP as well as other minor parties. At the epicenter is the breathtaking royal rumble for the soul of Edo amongst interests and forces out with frazzling muscle flexing in the battle for the soul of the Heart Beat state. Edo was before now an APC state until the dramatic edging out of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki and candidate of the PDP towards the end of his first term in office.
Both Obaseki and his estranged close political godfather and predecessor as well as immediate past National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole fell apart over contentious issues bothering on running the affairs of the state. No doubt, Oshiomhole and his supporters in the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) are not sparing anything to seek their pound of flesh from Obaseki for willful political betrayal and ingratitude, it is evident that never in political history of the state even from the hay days of Mid-Western Region to Bendel State had one witnessed the corrosive rage and hatred as is currently being displayed in the state.
The barrage of vicious verbal and physical attacks evidenced during the campaigns is enough speculative testimony of what is to be expected if not managed during the poll. Oshiomhole’s apostles, who claim to have made costly commitment towards Obaseki’s emergence in 2016, still reel in pains and anguish of slight and neglect from the collective patrimony. But, Obaseki’s neck deep hold to his ground, grouse and believe for what is perceived to be their silent deals with each other and even against Oshiomhole and his actions, is what has kept everyone guessing.
The governor has an unshaken knack and unwavering stance that he should be allowed to run his government his own way. The investment czar with his OSM (Obaseki/Shaibu Movement) men is all out to dislodge all the odds in the face of the ferocious war against Oshiomhole. The optimism of both camps, notwithstanding, several factors will definitely shape the poll and as a result are expected to determine where the pendulum swings to at the end of the day.
This year’s contest is an interesting political episode. It is epochal as the governor is seen to have dared political godfathers who either bankrolled his ambition to ascend to the number one seat and have in the process bitten the fingers that fed him. To this end, Obaseki is faced with an uphill task of saving himself and his ambition to come back to the hot seat. To core stakeholders and godfathers of the state, it is believed that the governor has not done enough to meet the expectations of Edo people. This is assumption is seen to have been worsened by the governor’s frontal attacks on perceived enemies or opposition groups and persons.
The intriguing plot among other emerging forces in some states which led to Oshiomhole’s dramatic strip of the robe and juicy position of national chairman of the APC is one devastating blow which its wounds have refused to heal. In addition, Oshiomhole’s henchmen are uncontrollably hot and hurt and are poised to pour out their bitter spleen with wild fire of hatred aimed at sweeping the incumbent governor out of the government house. Again, the governor’s strained relationship with a popular business mogul and oil magnate, Captain Hosa Okunbo is one that touches the soul and heart of key Benin people who have soft spot for the businessman.
The royal rumble is still fresh that Okunbo and his stream of foot soldiers are in no letups for ‘Obaseki Must Go’ singsong and campaign. The business mogul has vowed to spend his last kobo to ensure that his home boy and APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu emerges victorious. Also, eggheads within the APC are unrepentant about easing Obaseki out for taking the food meant for them to the PDP.
But Obaseki has taken his measured steps to prove die-hard critics wrong with sound proof of achievements in meeting obligations and responsibilities, especially in his reforms in the civil service, judiciary, education, political stability with sanity is communities with a far reaching fight against the infamous and Community Development Associations, infrastructural development in roads, giant leap in power supply, boost in agriculture, industrialization and welfare of the people, among many others which crisscross the length and breadth of the state.
Benin Traditional Council (BNC)
The Benin palace remains powerful tool in the politics and governance of the state. It is on record that no one ascends to power at whatever level without the fatherly input and influence of the monarch of the kingdom. The Benin kingdom has a rich culture as well as tradition, and the power, influence and actions of the Oba is most sacrosanct and must be respected to the letter. No one dares the palace and gets scot free. At the moment Oba Ewuare 11, who is the 46th on the revered throne has been an epitome of peace and exemplary leadership that draws global and national attention.
Therefore, as the chairman of Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers, the Oba wields far reaching influence in deciding who becomes the governor of the state at all times and questions when occasion demands, actions of such personality. It is an inconvertible fact, therefore, that whoever curries the favour of the palace will have unhindered support as Oba’s words and body language are seen as the stand of the gods and ancestors of the land.
It holds therefore that whatever the Oba says is final and his subjects drawn from across the seven local government areas in Edo south senatorial district toe the path and words of the monarch which are usually coordinated through the Enigies or Dukes and other top chiefs in the various domains within the communities where they preside on behalf of the royal palace.
Oba Ewuare played a prominent role at resolving the Oshiomhole/Obaseki face-off till date which later culminated to the few weeks ago peace initiative recently at the palace which witnessed the coming together of all the main actors in the politics and crises in the state. The echo of the positive outcome of that accord parley has continued to reverberate endlessly towards dousing all tensions and in the process dramatically reduced the spate of violent attacks.
Edo political tripod
It has been pain in the hearts of key political actors from Edo Central on how the senatorial district with five local governments has been subjected to a mere bride of other two senatorial districts of the south and north. Obaseki was said to have towards the middle of his first tenure, entered into an unwritten agreement with Esan people in Edo Central to support his government, so that at the end of his second term, the zone would product the next governor of the state.
At the moment, the area produced the slots of speaker of the state House of Assembly (Mr. Frank Okiye and Victor Edoror as two factions of the same house) and factional state chairman of the APC, Barrister Anselm Ojezua till the governor suddeny pitched tent with the PDP.
Aside late Prof. Ambrose Alli and lately, Prof, Oserheimen Osunbor’s brief stint of 18 months in office as governor under the PDP, the zone has not produced another governor. It has always been the south and north sharing the key positions of power in the state and how much that agreement holds for area known for their strong believe in the PDP is a puzzle waiting to be unraveled. But the entry and emergence of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the APC candidate for the election and the new political alignments and realignments in the state is believed to have altered the equation.
Should Ize-Iyamu emerge the next governor of the state, the people of the central zone are likely to wait for another eight years, whereas if Obaseki wins and spends another four years, the area is likely to produce his successor. At the moment it is a dicey game and the voting pattern of Edo Central would be determined by how past and present governments attended to the needs of the area.
Federal might/PDP eggheads
The PDP, having bounced back in the state is likely not to let power slip off its hold after over 12 years out of power, while the APC is plotting to retrieve back the crown it lost due to internal wrangling within its fold. This explains why reasons for the war of attrition are not far-fetched. Edo is strategic to both parties. At the moment, there is heavy deployment of soldiers and personnel of other security agencies by the federal government. Indications point that APC is gradually losing its grip to power in some states across the country as a result worsening living conditions and as a result, is out to regain control of Edo at all cost, but PDP eggheads are poised for a showdown. It is evident that Obaseki’s engineering mechanism to boot out the godfathers has received much accolades despite the belief in some quarters that his government is allegedly not giving governance a human face.
State Assembly crisis
The state legislature is currently factionalized into two, with the Speaker Frank Okiye’s group of seven (G7)-led PDP lawmakers holing up at the state government house Benin City, while the Oshiomhole’s G17 under the speakership of Victor Edoror has its camp in a private residence. The Obaseki/Oshiomhole face-off over battle for party structure has given the hallowed chamber at the popular Kings Square away for political thugs following the supremacy war for the control of the House by forces loyal to both actors. There is obvious tendency by Oshiomhole’s men in the House to ease out the Obaseki influence through targeted impeachment process which has always remain the governor’s fear.
Crack in Obaseki’s cabinet
The recent resignation of Mr. Taiwo Akerele, a former Chief of Staff to Obaseki (Edo north), some commissioners and board members of some agencies does not speak well of the government of the day at this critical moment. It is feared that this may negatively affect Obaseki/Philip Shaibu joint ticket for a comeback. The former appointees are likely to work against the governor, having switched their loyalty to the Ize-Iyamu camp.
National Assembly legislators
About five APC lawmakers out of nine House of Representatives in the National Assembly are backing Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. The PDP has four House of Representatives. Some of the senators are also believed to have soft spot for the APC candidate ahead of the election and this is likely to work against the chances of the PDP in the poll. Feelers have it that the harmony between the home government and the lawmakers has not been encouraging and Obaseki’s government had allegedly disappointed some of them during campaigns that led to their respective elections and it is clear that they are going to work against second term bid of the governor.